Have you ever awakened to a sore, stiff neck that just left you in pain? Neck soreness can be a real pain in the neck (pun intended). Many of us suffer from it at some point in our lives. But that doesn’t mean we should have to keep suffering from it.
So what is it that causes neck pain in the first place? Is it something to be concerned about or something that you can prevent?
And once you do get that neck pain, what can you do to treat it?
Let’s look at what could cause your neck pain and how you can get yourself some neck pain relief.
What is Neck Pain?
Your neck is made up of cervical disks that sit between vertebrae. These are supported by a bunch of different ligaments and muscles, any number of which could be the cause of your chronic neck pain.
It usually feels like an ache or tightness, sometimes even limiting your range of motion. You can feel neck pain in any area of your neck, but it usually occurs in the back and sides of your neck.
What Causes Neck Pain?
Why is it that so many of us fall victim to neck pain?
The truth is, there are a few different issues that could be causing your neck pain, some more concerning than others.
Here are the most common causes of that pesky neck pain.
The most common cause of the occasional neck pain is muscle strain. This strain can come from anything from sleeping strangely to pushing yourself too hard during a workout. Carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder can cause undue stress on the side of your neck.
One of the most common causes of muscle strain in neck pain sufferers is poor posture. When you don’t sit or stand straight, you put extra stress on your neck muscles. These muscles are only equipped to handle a certain amount and type of pressure. When you have poor posture, you engage muscles in ways that they aren’t meant to work, putting a lot of strain on certain pressure points throughout your body.
Another common cause of neck pain and discomfort is injury. Putting too much strain on your neck or having an injury to your shoulder can cause pain in your neck.
Some of the most common neck injuries are a torn muscle or tendon, a herniated disc, and even a fractured spine.
Many of us have heard of the term “pinched nerve.” Indeed, these are common causes of neck pain.
The reason that nerves get “pinched” is due to nerve compression. This happens when the muscles around a nerve are applying too much pressure, causing damage to the nerve and pain.
How Can You Prevent Neck Pain?
We can all agree that the best way to deal with pain is to stop it from happening in the first place. When it comes to neck pain, how can you do that?
You have a few options when it comes to neck pain prevention and improving your comfort throughout the day.
One of the best things you can do to prevent and stop neck pain before it gets out of hand is to improve your posture.
You can do this by performing exercises to strengthen your core and checking yourself throughout the day to make sure you’re sitting and standing up straight.
Sleep in a Better Position
A great way to prevent those neck pains that you feel early in the morning when you wake up is to make sure to adjust your sleep position.
Though it’s difficult to know what sort of positions your body moves around in when you’re asleep in bed, there are some preventative measures to try to keep your neck supported with better sleep posture.
For instance, many of us end up having to sleep on airplanes on long flights or in cars on long trips. To protect your neck, consider using a neck pillow to keep everything in line when you’re sleeping so that you wake up without a stiff neck.
Pick The Right Pillow For You
Picking the best pillow to help fight your neck pain is essential to getting back to your life without a stiff neck. Whether you're a stomach sleeper, back sleeper, or side sleeper, there are pillows on the market that can be a great choice to improve your neck pain.
Memory foam pillows have gained massive popularity for how they form to your head. Depending on your personal preference and sleep style, you can narrow down your search to an adjustable pillow that can have you waking up far more refreshed.
What you really need is a solid pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck in a way that feather pillows just can't. If you can find one with the added bonus of a machine washable cover, like the one from Everlasting Comfort, you're in even better shape.
Avoid Carrying Too Much Weight on One Shoulder
If you carry a pocketbook, duffle bag, or excessive amounts of luggage, you could cause one side of your neck to stretch out too much. This leads to tension, possible tears, and, you guessed it, neck pain.
Consider switching off shoulders to help keep your alignment intact. Alternatively, you could invest in a backpack to evenly distribute the weight between both shoulders and lower the downsides of carrying around your stuff.
How Can You Treat Neck Pain?
These prevention tips are great, but what do you do about the neck pain that you’re already dealing with right now?
You could take over-the-counter pain medications, or you could try one of these more natural solutions to relieve that neck pain.
Heat or Ice Therapy
If you’ve ever taken a hot shower at the end of a long day, you know how effective it can be at relieving all of that tension that’s built up throughout the day.
The same can be said of heat or ice therapy. If you think your neck pain could be caused by swelling, try using ice to reduce that swelling. For tight muscles, heat can open blood vessels and improve circulation.
Massage is a great way to get rid of tense muscles and muscle knots. Use your fingers and thumb to rub gently in a circular motion along the tense muscles of your neck, releasing that tension.
You could also see a professional for expert pain relief.
Get Relief from Neck Pain
Neck pain is common, but it should never be permanent or reoccurring.
By taking easy steps like improving your posture, investing in a neck pillow, and using heat or ice therapy, you can avoid and treat neck pain easily at home.
Neck Muscles and Other Soft Tissues | Spine Health
3 surprising risks of poor posture | Harvard Health
Types and Causes of Common Neck Injuries | Try Health